Why Throw Away One of the Most Useful Ingredients in Your Kitchen?

We’ve forgotten how to use old bread

Mark Bittman
Published in
4 min readFeb 24, 2020


Photo: Aya Brackett

You should never throw away a half loaf of bread again.

Adding bread crumbs to a salad, chicken cutlets, pasta, and even ice cream can transform a dish from good to great, with the addition of texture, salt, and savoriness from toasted bits and pieces.

Sure: You can buy bread crumbs and croutons, and pretty good ones at that. But why spend the money when you’ve got perfectly good bread at home? And I assure you, making your own makes for a more flavorful ingredient. And once you make them, they keep forever, provided you store them in an airtight, dry place.

So sock away extra heels and scraps of bread in the freezer and thaw them out as needed. Or if you know you’re going to make bread crumbs or croutons from a fresh loaf, store it cut side down on a cutting board and use it when you’re ready. No need to wrap in plastic or otherwise tuck away.

Fresh Bread Crumbs

Makes: 3 to 4 cups
Time: 10 minutes

The most common ways to use bread crumbs are in stuffing or as breading. They can also add a welcome crunch when incorporated into dishes as they cook or used for garnish.


  • About 8 ounces good-quality bread, preferably a day or two old


Tear the bread into pieces and put about half in a food processor. Pulse a few times, then let the machine run for a few seconds until coarsely chopped.

Remove and repeat with the remaining bread. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a month.

Toasted Bread Crumbs

After grinding, spread the bread crumbs on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350°F oven, shaking the pan occasionally until lightly browned, about 15 minutes; store these the same way as fresh. Alternatively, toast fresh bread crumbs just before using them.

Fried Bread Crumbs

These are delicious; seasoning sticks to them better than uncoated bread crumbs, but they don’t keep as well, so use them…



Mark Bittman

Has published 30 books, including How to Cook Everything and VB6: The Case for Part-Time Veganism. Newsletter at markbittman.com.